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Maple Street Memories #7

Episode Seven

“We met when Stanley was first away in the military.  She had two small children and was a bit lost without him.  She had a hard time coping.  She did bookkeeping at home and I met her on one of her trips to the business next door.  She was making a delivery and we bumped into each other.  Literally.  I knocked all of her papers to the ground and tried to make amends by taking her to coffee.”

He swallowed a few spoonfuls of his soup and continued his story.  “We made a habit of meeting a couple of times a week. She was charming and beautiful.  She needed someone to talk to and a helping hand.  It didn’t take long for more to develop.”

He cleared his throat as the waiter approached with salads.  Charles passed her a basket of warm bread and butter.  “I’m not proud of the next episode.  Your mother and I grew closer and began an intimate relationship.  I know it was wrong.  We were both married, but lonely.  I was ten years her senior, but I never felt older with her.  We had such fun and laughs together and the whole thing seemed to take on a life of its own.”

Mary’s eyes widened, but she said nothing.  She gave him a tiny nod, prodding him to resume.

“I apologize for my behavior. It was rash and reckless.”  He smiled and said, “But I loved your mother and she loved me.  Stanley had an unexpected leave and came home for a few days before he was deployed on a ship.  Your poor mother was wracked with guilt, as was I.  It was soon after he deployed that she discovered she was pregnant.  With you, my dear.”

The next course arrived and Mary’s stomach was still lurching.  She took small bites of a delicious stew as Charles took up the history lesson again.

“Now I must prepare you for this next revelation.  Your birthday is eight months from the time of Stanley’s last visit, so you see my sweet girl, he wasn’t your natural father.  It was me, I’m your father.”  Mary’s spoon clanged against the plate as she dropped it.  “Now my dear, Helen specifically requested that we discontinue our meetings and relationship.  She didn’t want your brother and sister confused and wanted everyone to believe you were Stanley’s daughter.”

Mary’s hand began to shake and she felt nauseous.  “I…I just can’t…believe it.”

He reached his hand across the table.  “I know ma chere.  I am sorry, but I vowed to keep your mother’s secret.  My wife and family never knew and Helen went on with her own life.”

“The house?”

“Ah, yes.  When Stanley was killed at Pearl Harbor, I told Helen that the only way I would honor her request was if she allowed me to make sure she had a safe place to live.  I didn’t want her to worry about having to work with all she was going through.  It took some time but she finally agreed.  I bought the house in Oakmont and she moved all of you in there.”

“She always said the house came from insurance money.”

Charles nodded.  “Yes, that’s what she wanted everyone to think. She was ashamed and embarrassed about what we had been doing.  I felt such shame at the time.”  His eyes sparkled and he added, “But I would do it all again just for those few months we had together.”

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